In 2020 after many years of trying to navigate the system designed to support those with additional needs, I said goodbye to my son as he started a 7.5 year prison sentence. He had to own the time for his crime but I needed answers. In 2014 I was told that ADHD in the majority of cases led to set pathways - early death, drugs or prison. These were the words of the paediatrician.
He was identified as a fidget at 5 years old but it took another 9 years, 2 permanent exclusions and the start of a criminal record before he gained a diagnosis of ADHD and ASC.
What struck me as I poured over the 'where did it all go wrong?' moments, was the number of reachable, teachable moments that were missed. The number of opportunities to listen and learn as parents, professionals and as the young man he became. I know now that this did not have to be inevitable and he could have been picked up earlier, accessed and provided support when he was still in a position of wanting to achieve, wanting to get through the day, wanting to be like his peers.
When he ends his time in prison we will start another journey but I am using the time we have now to work with other parents to explore those important moments of influence, to support them in self reflection of their approach to behaviours and to provide key resources to help those emotional, fidgeting or anxiety driven moments working to keep them from exclusion and an endless sense of failure.
We will carry out much needed research into vocational pathways for young people who are unlikely to complete mainstream school but do not need a specialist provision as well as looking at mainstream spaces to be inclusive and appropriate.